SEO should become an important part of your marketing strategy, to help you organically develop and improve the online standing of your brand. In this guide, we explore what SEO actually is and the different types you should be aware of, why SEO is important for business, how long SEO takes, and how you can improve SEO performance.

What is SEO?

From explaining the meaning behind SEO to uncovering the benefits of the content marketing practice, we answer the common marketing query: ‘what is SEO?’

What does SEO stand for?

Search engine optimisation, more commonly known as SEO, is the process of improving the visibility of your webpages through organic growth.

SEO is about understanding what people are searching for online, with good optimisation driving users to your website. Ultimately, search engine optimisation delivers conversions, which is why you should make SEO a part of your sales strategy moving forward.

What are the benefits of SEO?

  • Optimising leads to more traffic

Through optimising the visibility of your website, you are placing your brand in front of more users. This will, inevitably, improve your chances of increasing traffic and converting users into customers.

  • Optimising your website generates more consistent traffic

By optimising your pages, and overall website, you are giving yourself a strong platform for sustained success. Unlike social media marketing or paid search, which often relies on instant traffic, earning a ranking place will ensure your brand remains at the forefront of the conversation.

  • SEO is ‘free’

While it’s true that SEO requires an investment of time and resources, you, ultimately, won’t have to pay for search traffic. This is the critical difference between SEO and PPC; SEO generates traffic through organic growth, whereas PPC marketing utilises paid-for ads to get branding in front of potential customers.

Different types of SEO

Maintaining and optimising a website requires SEO expertise in four main corners: local SEO, technical SEO, earning backlinks, and writing user-friendly content. We’ve provided a basic introduction to each, as part of our beginner’s guide to SEO.

What is local SEO?

Local SEO is a strategy that improves your business’ online performance within a specific region or area. It is especially helpful if your business has a physical location, whereby you can target local consumers. You can improve SEO on a local level by:

  • Creating area-specific content that prioritise regional keywords.
  • Regularly generating positive online reviews within the local community.
  • Creating a Google My Business account.

What is technical SEO?

When somebody talks about technical SEO, what they’re referring to is improving and optimising the technical elements of a website, to achieve an improved results page ranking. This involves:

  • Making your website easier to crawl. This means establishing an obvious site structure with clear internal links demonstrating a hierarchy.
  • Increasing page speed and efficiency.
  • Removing links to non-existent (404) pages.
  • Removing duplicated content. The same content across multiple pages, or even copied from another website, can confuse a search engine, which can result in page penalties.

In short, a backlink is when another website links through to yours. This could be another website within the same industry or a news platform linking to your site as part of a relevant story.

The reason backlinks are important for SEO is that another website referencing your content or web page demonstrates authority; backlinks are a signal to search engines that your website is trustworthy, which can have an influence over your ranking position. The process of earning backlinks is often called link-building, and forms a key part of digital PR.

What is SEO writing?

SEO writing is the practice of creating helpful website content that focuses on specific keywords and phrases that users are searching for. Before you begin, though, it’s helpful to know how to find keywords for SEO.

SEO content is written with the primary aim of providing relevant guidance and answering consumer concerns. To rank highly for your SEO writing, you must be able to:

1.  Create user friendly copy. This means developing content that consumers actually find helpful.

2.  Implement targeted key search terms within your copy. This will require prior keyword research.

Why SEO is important for business

SEO is important for business, as a means of improving visibility and credibility of your brand. The core reasons you should prioritise SEO include:

1. SEO helps you to rise up the search engine results page

Perhaps the most important reason for performing SEO is that it can help you to achieve a spot on the first page of search results. By demonstrating value, you can then continue to work your way towards being the number one ranked site for your chosen keywords.

2. SEO helps to build trust around a brand

There are numerous elements that go into establishing a trustworthy and reliable brand, but SEO plays a strong part in your online performance. By optimising web pages to satisfy search intent, curating a quality backlink profile, and prioritising user-experience, you will become an authority within your industry.

3. SEO generates quality traffic

SEO is an inbound marketing strategy, which, in short, means consumers come to you rather than you to them. Because consumers are coming to you, to make a purchase, access your catalogue of helpful resources, or find answers to their questions, you are all-but-guaranteed to generate higher quality leads.

4. Local SEO can increase conversions

By focussing part of your attention on local SEO, you can capitalise on regional searches and capture local consumers. A local web presence also helps you to rise up the search engine results rankings for location-specific search terms.

5. SEO is a long-term success strategy

It might take you a little while to register results and see a significant improvement in performance, but, by sticking to an SEO strategy, you are setting your website up for long-term success. In the end, the commitment to demonstrating value across your entire website will stand you in excellent stead as you grow your online presence.

How long does SEO take to work?

If you’re investing in an ongoing SEO strategy, you should begin to see recognisable results within 6-12 months - but it’s not unheard of to notice a positive impact after a shorter spell. However, there’s no getting away from it; unlike paid search, SEO isn’t a quick fix. So, don’t be disheartened if you’re not registering much change within the first couple of months. Contributing factors include:

Having a new website

If you’re a new business, with a new website and a new domain, you’ll almost certainly take a little longer than an already established domain to see SEO results. This is because, as far as search engines are concerned, you have no evidence of authority within your industry.

Having a history of penalised pages

If you operate a domain that has previously been hit or impacted by a Google algorithm change, you’ll have to work hard to re-establish authority and trust in your website. Similarly, if your content goes against SEO guidelines, you’ll be sanctioned by Google.

The competitiveness of your keywords

If you’re attempting to rank for a competitive keyword or phrase, you’ll unsurprisingly find it tougher to cut through the noise than if you were trying to rank for a less popular search term.

It can take up to two years to rank for a tough keyword, so you’ll simply need to remain patient and persistent. Having a thorough understanding of how to find keywords for SEO will put you in an elevated position when it comes to claiming ranking spots.

How to improve your SEO performance

Whether you’re a brand-new business wanting to get off to a good start, or you’ve been around a little while and want to see positive movement in your ranking position, it’s important to regularly analyse performance in an effort to push on. We’ve outlined our top tips to improve SEO performance.

Improve SEO by regularly publishing relevant content

Quality on-page content is one of the leading contributors to your overall ranking position, so it’s crucial that you establish a strategy around publishing regularly and relevantly. This means making sure each page targets specific keywords, and offers helpful, tailored content for the respective search terms.

Additionally, when creating content, make sure your pages are structured with the consumer in mind. This means breaking sections down into headings, that improve readability. Within your headings, you should also aim to use your page’s targeted keywords.

Optimise your pages’ metadata to improve SEO

Metadata is information that describes your web page, such as your title tag and description. A title tag is the ‘headline’ for your page, presented within a search results list. In the case below, the title is ‘Fasthosts Blog | Fasthosts’.

A meta description is a short section (usually within 160 characters) placed underneath your title, explaining what the page offers. When addressing your website’s on-page content, don’t forget to optimise your title tag and description with relevant keywords.

How to improve SEO by optimising your internal linking

An internal link is one that takes a user to another page on the same website. Importantly, including internal links within your SEO content writing can help to boost page performance, because it demonstrates site fluidity, structure, and hierarchy.

Enhance the speed of important pages to improve SEO

Reportedly, a quarter of users abandon a mobile website if it takes longer than 4 seconds to load. This increases to half of people if a mobile website takes longer than 3 seconds.

In essence, the longer your website takes to load, the less chance you have of converting a user; it doesn’t matter how inspiring your on-page content is if nobody has the patience to see it. So, it’s absolutely crucial that you focus on speeding up your website loading time. You can achieve this by:

  • Enabling file compression to reduce the size of your pages.
  • Reducing page redirects. Redirecting a page takes time that a user isn’t often willing to give.
  • Knowing how to optimise images for SEO. You can do this by making sure images are no bigger than they need to be, and are either formatted as PNGs or JPEGs.

A featured snippet is a short section of text that appears at the top of Google’s results page. The idea is that the featured snippet attempts to answer a user’s question, so they don’t have to trawl through web pages for a solution.

Importantly, a featured snippet is positioned above the number one ranking page. To win a featured snippet spot:

1.  You should already have first-page ranking content.

2.  Once you’ve achieved a first-page rank, you should aim to provide succinct and easily digestible answers within your on-page content.

3.  Finally, get into the habit of monitoring your targeted featured snippets, to keep track of any changes you might need to make to your content.

Knowing how to improve SEO is crucial in establishing your brand as an industry leader online. For even more expert advice, discover all there is to know about marketing your brand, or setting up your new business.